Today we had a first exclusive opportunity to get behind the wheel of McLaren’s latest hypercar: The 2014 McLaren P1! We flew out to Bahrain, a small state in the Middle East and home to the annual F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain for a two day road test. Tomorrow we will have more opportunity to drive the McLaren P1 on the road and on the Bahrain International Circuit, but by popular request from our fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram we didn’t want to keep you waiting any longer for our initial findings!
We arrived in Bahrain very early in the morning from Doha, Qatar. From the airport we were driven to the beautiful Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa on the West coast of the island. Here we meet Paul Mackenzie, program director for the McLaren P1 and head of MSO, who will explain to us, all there is to know about McLaren’s hypercar. Excited to drive the McLaren P1, we patiently waited for its arrival from the Bahrain International Circuit where it made an appearance at the Advanced Engineering and Innovation event, part of the celebrations of the Kingdom’s British Week.
Sadly we caught one of the rare rainy days in Bahrain and outside it is primarily grey and wet. The P1 McLaren organized for us today is finished in a midnight purple color that looks particularly good in sunlight, sadly we won’t see much of that today. The car pulls up and immediately draws a crowd. From employees of the hotel to passing guests and government officials, everybody wants to take a closer look at the P1. Even though the car looks more purple than black today it is good at drawing attention!
We get behind the wheel and Paul Mackenzie joins us in the passenger seat to explain the features of the car. Although the P1 is significantly different from the 12C, it also has some similarities like the controls and most of the switches so we are quickly familiar with the cars setup. New is the E-mode button that allows you to drive on electric power only. We start the engine and after a loud roar decide to give the E-mode a go straight away – as soon as we hit drive and engage the throttle the petrol engine switches off and we are underway with electric power only.
Thanks to its low weight the P1 feels extremely nimble, even though the electric mode is not as fast as the 903 hp hybrid mode, it is still good fun! A specific wind adds to the effect. The first bit of our route goes through a local town with various speed bumps, ground clearance is thanks to the short overhang very good and we don’t have to use the nose lift system once. Outside of town we have seen enough of the E-mode and would like to experience V8 power. Releasing the accelerator, we press the E-mode again to disable it, in a split second the V8 growls back to life and before we know it, 903 horses eagerly await release under our right foot.
Due to the rain the roads are covered in water, sand and mud. Not the ideal conditions to unleash the beast inside the P1. We take it easy towards the next intersection and after that, we are rewarded with a brand new road that offers more grip. We step on the gas and before we know it the engine and turbos scream loud. Considering we are still in normal mode and still in automatic there is not much drama yet but, damn! This car is quick! We turn right at the end of the road onto a dual carriageway – wet and muddy as it can be – so I stick to what I believe is the speed limit until the end of the road while playing with the various options and controls. At the end of this road we turn around and again pass a sign with the speed limit – 80. Turns out that is 80 km/h and not the 80 mph I was doing, luckily no police in sight!
Back towards the straight- clear road the traffic light is red and I set the suspension and engine settings to sport and the gearbox to manual to see what the P1 can really do. The light goes green and I put my foot down – 20, 50, 70, 90, 100, 110, 120, 130! Brake!! McLaren claims 0-200 km/h in less than 7 seconds and it certainly felt surreal quick. Besides the sheer acceleration, the brakes on the P1 are completely re-engineered and nothing like anything on any other car I have driven – apart from the Agera R, maybe..
We drive back through some villages and I decide to engage E-mode again. You can charge the battery while driving or plug it in to a power socket. It takes about 2 hours to fully charge the battery when its empty and will give you about 12 kilometers range, of course if you step on it like I did it will be a bit less but still good for around 8-10 kilometers. Driving a hypercar that doesn’t make any sound is a new sensation that before the P1, 918 Spyder and LaFerrari was unimaginable and I never thought I would say this but it actually makes fun too!
The mirrors already gave away that there was quite a bit of mud and dirt on the road but when I get out of the P1 back at the hotel it is much worse than I expected. The whole side and rear of the car are covered in a layer of grey mud and dirt. Paul Mackenzie quickly points out that it is actually a great way to see how the aerodynamics of the P1 work as some parts of the car are absolutely clean and you can trace the airflow through the front inlets down the sides towards the rear. The longer we look at it, the more we actually like the dirty P1. It has a great arty look to it and almost looks as if it has an intentional two-tone paint job! Any owners fancying a look like this, Paul guaranteed MSO can make it happen (also in gold-look)!
Today we have only scratched the surface on the story the McLaren P1 has to tell! Tomorrow we will have much more McLaren P1 including our full review and also our first laps at Bahrain International Circuit! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more photos and other updates!